Shock as a third of female college students fall pregnant
Worrying research findings prompt call for targeted family planning services at TVET colleges
More than a third of first-year female students at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges have been pregnant.
And three-quarters of those pregnancies were unplanned.
These are among the key findings of Human Sciences Research Council researchers, who said unplanned pregnancies among college and university students were a serious public health concern.
Writing in the June edition of the South African Medical Journal, they said targeted family planning services at TVET colleges would reduce unplanned pregnancies among the most vulnerable young women.The unplanned pregnancy rate was significantly higher among 18- to 24-year-olds, coloured students, those living with friends or fellow students, and those whose source of income was part-time work.
It was lower among those living with a husband, having had two or three pregnancies, and not having had an abortion.
Ntombizodwa Mbelle, chief research manager in the HSRC’s HIV/Aids, STIs and TB research programme, said unplanned pregnancies put young women at risk of unsafe abortion, depression and anxiety, as well as disrupting their education and career prospects.
They were mainly a result of contraceptive failure and inconsistent use of contraceptives, including condoms, she said.
The data compiled by Mbelle’s team came from a behavioural survey in 2014 of a nationally representative sample of 4,500 students – 90 from each of the 50 colleges around the country.Of the 2,877 female students in the survey, which was based on a written questionnaire, 1,002 responded to the question on unplanned pregnancy, with 74.6% saying they had had one.
“This finding suggests that attending a higher education institution does not necessarily translate to improved knowledge and use of contraceptives, knowledge of sexual health and practising safer sexual health,” said Mbelle.
“The high rates represent unmet needs for reproductive health among students and indicate a high demand for family-planning programmes at TVET colleges.”